Picking the right course: A Q&A guide

It can be hard to make the right college choice - should you go with your heart’s desire or pick a course with good career prospects?

Mon, Jan 6, 2014, 00:00

Does that degree in Latin leap out at you? Can you resist the lure of Fine Arts? Or should you be calculating and choose a course that will give you the best chance of a job after graduation?

“We never recommend students to choose a course they don’t really have any interest in,” says Marie Bourke of Forfas, which advises on future skills needs. “If you’re going to spend four years studying, it should be something you really like doing, or else there’s an increased risk of dropping out of college. That said, it is a good idea to have an eye to good career prospects.”

What, then, offers good career prospects?

Wily students have long known that some courses have better employment prospects than others. Graduates with a language – particularly business graduates – have a competitive edge in the jobs market. Ireland’s pharmaceutical industry shows no sign of contracting any time soon. And the shortage of electronic engineering graduates looks set to continue past 2018.

Where are the jobs in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM)?

Science, technology, engineering and mathematical disciplines underpin a wide range of future job opportunities, according to the Forfas Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN). The demand for software developers and designers, IT project managers, IT support users, IT security experts, and IT testing and troubleshooting, is expected to remain high beyond 2018. There is currently a demand for the business, ICT, and creative skill set required in social networking, animation and multimedia production. In the manufacturing sector, the demand for precision engineering skills for tool design and polymer technician (both to technician level) and process engineering skills (professional level) have a good chance of being in demand up to 2020 and beyond.

Ronan Harris, Vice President of Large Customer Sales for Google, says computer studies will help equip graduates with valuable skills to conduct complex analytics, to compile statistics, and to interpret data intelligently. “These critical thinking skills will be in great demand in the years ahead. Computer Science is demanded not just by technology companies but by all companies whose success in the digital age increasingly relies on technological innovation in every department, including marketing, operations, finance and research.”

The Life Sciences sector continues to see growth in Ireland and seems to be on a sustainable base. Scientists, engineers and technical staff have good employment prospects in this industry. There is a strong demand for engineering skills in the energy and renewable energy sector.

What about humanities, business, and social science?

Arts, humanities, business and social science graduates offer good career prospects in finance, business services, legal services, communications, tourism and culture, education, and social services, according to the EGFSN. In international financial services, accountants with regulatory skills and business analysts with mathematical skills such as actuarial science, data analysis, and quantitative finance are highly sought. Marketing and sales skills are in demand. Supply chain management and logistics consistently suffers from skills shortages.

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